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This episode highlights some key points from the Heroic Public Speaking Live Event on how you can improve as a performer and public speaker.

  • Why you don’t have to be an entertainer to be a performer. (2:19)
  • There is not one way to perform. (3:02)
  • What to do when you have a hard time connecting with your audience. (8:30)

00:00 Welcome to Steal the Show. This is Michael Port. In the last, say, 10 podcasts I’ve done, I’ve done with guests. The first 45 or so I did by myself, so I thought I’d do another one by myself. I hope you’re okay with that, just my voice. And we’re coming off Heroic Public Speaking Live, and the last 10 episodes with my guests were people who were performing at Heroic Public Speaking Live. I wanted to introduce them to you, encourage you to come to Heroic Public Speaking Live, and if you didn’t, I just wanna give you a little briefing on what’s important about the work that we did.

00:47 Now, of course, I’m not gonna go through our entire three-day curriculum, but there are a couple of things that I think were big takeaways for people. One of which was that you don’t have to be an entertainer to be a performer, that you don’t have to be an entertainer to be a performer. Sometimes when people think about performance, they think that it’s show and dance or song and dance, it’s magic, it’s comedy. And all of those things can certainly be integrated into speeches that you give or presentations that you give. But your job is to connect with people. Not necessarily to wow them with pizazz, but to connect with them and deliver on a promise that you make to them. Now if you can entertain them at the same time, even better. But entertaining again doesn’t just mean that you’re putting on a show. Entertaining can also be keeping them on the edge of their seat because the ideas you’re bringing them are so interesting, or the how to advice that you’re giving them is so relevant to them and so interesting to them, and, of course, important to them.

02:19 And that’s entertaining for them if it’s done in a way that keeps them engaged. So it can be relevant and important, but if you’re not connecting with them, if you can’t demonstrate that you understand the way the world looks, and you’re not engaging them, then they hear it and they go, “That was good information,” but that’s about all the props that you get. So yes, we wanna keep them engaged, but no, we don’t necessarily have to think of ourselves as entertainers to be performers. That’s one of the big takeaways, one of the things that I think people really got.

03:02 The other thing that I think people really got was that there is no one way to perform. This is a big part of our philosophy. When Amy and I were in graduate school, Amy was at Yale, I was at NYU, we were taught how to act. And people would often ask us, “What’s the methodology that you’re using or they’re teaching you? Is it like The Method? What is it?” And interestingly enough, there wasn’t one in particular. We had a very integrated approach to performance. We learned how to use our voice, we learned how to move, we learned how to speak, and of course we learned how to act. But the focus was about being more open. It wasn’t ever about gimmicks or tricks, and each individual developed their own way of accessing their emotions and their intellect, and staying in the moment.

04:19 I was listening to an interview with Seth Godin. Seth is a friend and what I would call a mentor in absentia, meaning that I came up in this business learning from Seth. And he said that he’s often asked what his writing process is, and he always says, “I’m not gonna tell you.” Not because he wants to keep it a secret. Because he thinks that it’s not the question that should be asked. Meaning, if you just use his process, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a better writer. He says each one of us needs to figure out what that looks like for ourselves. And he doesn’t mean to hang you out there to dry. And I hope I’m doing him justice in the way that I’m describing it, but what he’s saying is that the tricks are not gonna work to make you a better writer. However, there are certainly things you can do to overcome blocks. For example, he says if he’s having a block, then he’ll write what he’s angry about. And he says it’s a good way to start to get things going ’cause it’s often pretty easy to come up with things that you’re angry about and express yourself without filter. And then you get those out and you might have freed yourself up and started to be a little bit more fluid.

05:51 And I think there’s some parallels here in the world of performance because when we coach people, we’re always looking for the individual and there are certain techniques that are very very important to learn, and there are certainly habits to break, but even though there are many habits that people… That you see consistently in many folks. Each individual has different habits. There are certain habits you often see. Wandering is a very typical habit, but not everybody does it. Sometimes people don’t move, and they look like they’re glued to the stage. They have a different habit. Each individual is unique, and we’re looking for what’s unique in each individual, so that each individual is amplifying their own style, their own perspective, their own uniqueness. I think people got that. I think that they were able to explore what’s unique about them and how the techniques of performance, the principles of performance, can apply to their style of behavior on stage. Remember that performance is not about fake behavior, performance is authentic behavior in a manufactured environment.

07:17 So what they’re doing, is they’re looking for an authentic style of behavior that is natural for them, and an ease and a comfort with respect to that particular way of being on stage in that very manufactured environment. When they’re comfortable in that manufactured environment, people are very comfortable watching them, and the more comfortable your audience is with you as a performer… Don’t get me wrong, you often wanna provoke your audience… Not just to provoke them, but you’re provoking them to help them see the world in a different way. It may make them a little bit uncomfortable, but they need to be comfortable with you. For example, if you’re telling a story that’s a very very difficult story for you to tell, about something that happened to you in your life that’s very difficult, and they’re worried about you because you haven’t gone through that experience, and you’re still in it, then it may take them out of the experience in that they now start worrying about you instead of you being able to deliver on the promise that you’ve made to them.

08:30 And the same thing is true if you look very very uncomfortable and have a hard time connecting with them as a result. Then they’re worried about you because you’re so worried about yourself. Once you stop worrying about yourself then they are much more comfortable and often will embrace you. It’s so interesting because it seems counterintuitive. It does; it seems a little bit counterintuitive because you kinda just have to not worry and then maybe you will make some mistakes if you don’t worry, and that’s what you’re worried about. But, if you make mistakes and you’re not worried about it too much, but you’re in constant service of the audience, they go okay so there’s a mistake here, big deal. I can live with that as an audience member, because they’re not concerned. If you’re so concerned about that mistake that when you make that mistake they see you painfully rejecting yourself for the mistake that you made, then they get worried about you. We don’t want them worried about you at any time. When I’m doing this broadcast, and I’m just talking to you, I might go off topic a little bit here and there, and then realize “Hmm I’m getting a little bit off, let me get back.”

09:46 I might say “um” like I just said. I might take an extra couple of seconds to organize my thoughts so that I can express them clearly, but if I can express them clearly after I take a couple seconds to organize my thought, then you’re okay with me taking a couple seconds to organize my thought. You’re not expecting me to come here with a prepared, memorized script, not in this particular case. I think if I did, you might not like it as much. I’d feel like… I don’t know, that felt a little staged. Now, that’s different than when you are delivering a speech that you give over and over again that has elements of performance. You can have that memorized completely, but the audience has no idea that it’s memorized.

10:39 To them it seems like it’s the first time you’ve ever delivered that material, and if you have skill as a performer then you can make it seem so. One of our guests, Ron Tight, in a previous episode mentioned that he heard an expression once, which I love that amateurs rehearse to get it right, but professionals rehearse so that they don’t get it wrong. I think that’s a really interesting distinction. That was another big take away for folks, just how much time they needed to dedicate to their work out of respect for their audience. Sometimes we resist that because A: We are limited, we don’t have a lot of time, and B: We don’t wanna dedicate a lot of time to this stuff. I think when you get the kind of results that you want, you’re willing to dedicate more time. It’s an interesting dynamic because when something works, then you wanna do more of it, so you’re willing to work harder on it because you see the results pay off. You need to see either results pay off in order to commit to doing more work. That’s the catch 22.

12:05 So, before you’ve seen the results pay off, you gotta make a commitment to yourself to do the work so that the results pay off because if you do a little bit of the work and the results don’t pay off, then you’ll say “Ah, this doesn’t really work to do the little bit of the work.” It’s like one time I was teaching on networking and I was giving some specific strategies and they’re very straight forward things. It was introduce two people to each other each day who might be relevant to each other but probably don’t know each other yet, share some information with at least one person each day that’s relevant to them, and share some compassion each day with someone inside your network. And if you do that each day and you do it over the course of a month, you’re reach… You’re staying in touch with that 80 people a month which is pretty good number and if you add a few more of that…

12:51 Few more people to that process each day, well, you’re just gonna increase that number. And so one guy shouts out “That doesn’t work.” I said “Oh, have you tried it?” He says “No, I know. No, I haven’t but I know it doesn’t work. It’s not gonna work.” So I of course wasn’t gonna argue with him then I said “Okay. No, I’m sure for you it doesn’t work, you’ve never tried it.” So, there’s not a lot you can do when you have someone who takes that particular perspective but I don’t want you to take that particular perspective about anything that you wanna do in your life in a big way. After this event, the event was so successful. It was every… Each year, it gets bigger and better because we continuously improve it. We find out… We discover what worked really well so we do more of that and then we discover what needed to be improved and then we improved that. And when I came home, I was so psyched to get working on the next one because it was so successful. It was successful for the audience, their experiences were unparalleled and it was successful for us from a professional business perspective. And so the next one is in November, the very end of October, October 31st, November first and second and I’m ready… We’re already on it, we’re planning.

14:04 Like we’re doing weekly post-mortems on this event and immediately putting into play the things we’ve learned for the next one because we’re excited about it because it works. But… And it’s interesting because we’re working on it more now than before we did for the first one and that’s what’s interesting. So, the lesson in this for you and the lesson that many people realized at the event last week was that they need to give more of their time, more of their effort to the process even before they have experienced it working for them. And then the beautiful thing is we come home and already on the Facebook group, people are posting. I’ve been home four days and already I’ve seen a result that’s produced because of something I learned at the event last week in the speech that I gave today, and that’s what we love to see. That’s pretty immediate and when people get quick results, they tend to stay with the work longer because, as we’ve been talking about, when you get results you wanna do the kind of work that is getting you the results.

15:14 You’re more excited about it, you feel like it’s not in vain, it’s worthwhile. And that’s… Those are just a few of the takeaways that I think people found really helpful. I don’t wanna go on for the rest of the day about it, but I think those are relevant to you, I hope that they are, and I hope that you continue to listen to Steal the Show with me and the guests that I bring. I hope you read Steal the Show, if you haven’t read the book, please do. And, if you like the work that I’m doing for you here on the Podcast, please rate and review. Of course, subscribe if you’re new but I imagine you may already be a subscriber and I thank you for that. So in the mean time, keep thinking big about who you are and about what you offer the world. Bye for now.